The wwPDB hosted a special public symposium entitled A Celebration of Open Access in Structural Biology: Recognizing the Career and Achievements of Professor Helen M. Berman. On the afternoon of September 26, 2013, friends and colleagues filled an auditorium on the Busch campus of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Rutgers Dean of Life Sciences Kenneth Breslauer provided opening remarks, touching both on Helen's early life and on the growth of the Protein Data Bank archive during her tenure as director of the RCSB PDB.
The symposium then began, with Phil Bourne (UC San Diego) introducing the first speaker, Wayne Hendrickson (Columbia University). He spoke about Helen's early and ongoing support of the field of structural genomics and detailed three recent cases from his own laboratory where structural genomics-based efforts to characterize bacterial homologues of human membrane proteins had produced novel structures and new insights.
Eddy Arnold (Rutgers) then introduced Stephen Neidle (University College, London), whose talk Adventures in Nucleic Acid Structure and Systematics told the story of his career studying the interactions of drugs with nucleic acids, from proflavine bound to dinucleotides to drugs designed to bind to DNA quadruplexes in telomeres. A star player in his narrative was Helen, whose parallel studies of nucleic acids and their structural motifs led to the creation of the Nucleic Acid Database, a vital resource for the systematic understanding of nucleic acid structure.
Haruki Nakamura (Osaka University), Head of PDBj, then introduced Soichi Wakatsuki of the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Stanford University. He detailed the current state of X-ray free electron lasers and related technologies, new and powerful tools for the study of macromolecular structure.
Stephen Burley (Rutgers) introduced Cynthia Wolberger of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Johns Hopkins University, who spoke about the structural basis of ubiquitin signaling. She discussed her laboratory's work on the central role of deubiquinating enzymes in ubiquitin signaling, particularly the OTUB1 deubiquitinase interaction with UBC13 (E2) and ubiquitin.
Gerard Kleywegt, the Head of PDBe, introduced Janet Thornton, director of the EMBL-Eurpopean Bioinformatic Institute. She gave an overview of the history of the PDB along with her interactions and collaborations with Helen over the years. She ended by detailing many of the challenges that the PDB will face and meet in the future.
John Markley (University of Wisconsin), Head of BMRB, introduced Jean Baum (Rutgers), who talked about the structure of the collagen triple helix and its biological implications. She began with a discussion of her early interactions with Helen and with Helen's seminal work in the field of collagen structure. She then proceeded to detail her own laboratory's study of collagen, particularly regarding the molecular basis of collagen disease and the mechanisms of collagen recognition by receptors.
Wilma Olson (Rutgers) introduced Wesleyan University's David Beveridge, who spoke on the use of molecular modeling to understand the structure and behavior of nucleic acids on scales ranging from individual dinucleotides to entire genomes.
With a few brief words of closing, the audience then adjourned to the Center for Integrative Proteomics Research, where the sculpture Synergy by Julian Voss-Andreae, representing the triple helix of collagen in twenty feet of stainless steel, was officially unveiled and dedicated to Helen in recognition and celebration to her remarkable scientific vision and determination.
This symposium was made possible through the generous support of our sponsors. Visit wwpdb.org for sponsor information, pictures from the day, and more.